Latin American embassies in New Zealand are active in promoting their culture; Brazil has been especially successful in this regard. There has been an annual Latin American Film Festival, which travels to several centres in New Zealand, since 2001. Other examples of cultural representation include the Oye Latino radio show based in Wellington, and the women’s group Mujeres in Aotearoa.
All Blacks turn white
During the 1976 tour of Argentina the All Blacks were flown on two DC3 military planes to a match in Córdoba: ‘The pilots, knowing who their passengers were, indulged in a little close formation flying to give them a thrill, flying wing tip to wing tip and turning players even more white than when they started, until manager Ron Don gasped out to desist.’1
Sporting links with Latin America were forged in 1976, when New Zealand’s All Blacks played two rugby games against Argentina’s Pumas in Argentina. The first official test match between the sides occurred in 1985, when a New Zealand team toured Argentina. Since 2012 the two countries have played each other at least annually as part of the Rugby Championship that is also contested by South Africa and Australia. In 2011 the New Zealand embassy in Argentina sponsored the ‘Argentine Rugby Spirit in New Zealand Scholarship’, which is awarded to an Argentine student to play a season of rugby at a host school in New Zealand.
Since 2007 there has been a New Zealand education counsellor based at the embassy in Santiago, Chile.
The New Zealand Centre for Latin American Studies was established at the University of Auckland in 2002 and the Victoria Institute for Links with Latin America was set up in Wellington in 2007. Both promoted studies with, on and in Latin America, and organised regular conferences.
New Zealand universities have increased ties with their Latin American counterparts and there are exchange agreements with major institutions, including the Universidad de Chile, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and Universidad de Buenos Aires. The number of Latin American students studying at New Zealand universities has increased significantly since 2000, rising to over 500 by 2010. This has been stimulated in part by scholarship systems in South America such as Becas Chile, established in 2008, as well as by grants offered in New Zealand by the government.
Relatively few New Zealand students travel to Latin America, partly due to the language barrier. Spanish is taught in some New Zealand secondary schools and at university level, but Portuguese is scarcely available. In contrast, in a number of South American countries the teaching of English is compulsory from an early age.
One New Zealand travel agent promoted South America as a place for ‘real travellers’, luring prospective visitors with exotic images such as these: ‘Feel your whole body resonate as you experience the sight of Iguazu Falls, or abandon all your inhibitions to the gyrating rhythms of Rio’s Carnival. Head upriver to the lungs of the world – the mighty Amazon – and breathe in time with nature.’2
Since the early 2000s Latin America has increasingly been a New Zealand tourist destination. Places such as Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Patagonia and Rio de Janiero have proved attractive to New Zealanders looking for something different from the usual ‘OE’ (overseas experience) in Europe.
The number of South Americans visiting New Zealand has also increased, with 21,000 arrivals in 2009. There are regular flights – eight per week in 2011 – between New Zealand and South America, with regional hubs in Buenos Aires and Santiago.
Since 2010 New Zealand has had a less expansive strategy in relation to Latin America, as its geopolitical gaze shifted towards Asia and North America. Latin American countries were also focusing more explicitly on Asia, as the closing and downsizing of some diplomatic activities would seem to suggest. Nevertheless, genuine and substantial progress has been made to bring the respective economies and societies closer. Issues for the future include the deepening of free trade and cross investment, the geopolitical future of Antarctica, and shared concerns over ocean resources and climate change.